In the face of an increasingly difficult retail environment, the owners of A Tangled Skein, the downtown Hyattsville boutique yarn shop, are closing up shop after six years in business.
The store, co-owned by longtime friends Larry Paulson and Cheryl Hoffman, stocked a wide variety of yarns at a range of prices to cater to the Hyattsville region's legion of knitting and crochet enthusiasts.
In an interview, both framed the decision to close the shop as one motivated by a desire to move on to a new stage in their careers. But Paulson, who did much of the accounting for the business, admitted that competition from internet and big-box retailers was dragging down the bottom line.
"When we opened up, the closest yarn stores were in Columbia and Annapolis, and one in Kensington. We had a lot of market share," said Paulson, noting the expansion in the region of large chain craft stores like Michaels, Jo Ann Fabrics and Hobby Lobby. "Since then, five new yarn stores have opened up in our territory."
"Then there's internet sales of course," injected Hoffman. "I know I get a lot of my stuff from Amazon. It just seems that people nowadays have a lot more choice."
"People generally thought the internet would not be a very big factor in the sale of yarn, because it's a tactile thing" said Paulson, continuing Hoffman's line of thought. "But here it is. We never wanted to be an internet store, though."
Running a store, like any line of labor, was not without its difficulties and daily annoyances, though.
"Quite frankly, if I never have to pick up another ball of yarn off the floor and put it back, it wouldn't bother me, but I'll always remember the community and our staff," said Hoffman.
For both Hoffman and Paulson, whose backgrounds are in writing and editing, the store was an opportunity to do more than just sell yarn. It was also a chance to try to form a community around the act of making something by hand.
To that end, customers were welcome to sit in the store with their fresh skeins of yarn and stitch a few rows while chatting with staff. The store also hosted crochet and knitting classes, knit-ins and other yarn-centric group activities. They developed an active email newsletter, through which many first learned of the store's closing over this past weekend.
The closing of the store adds another vacancy to an area of Hyattsville's downtown Route 1 corridor which has yet to see the type of redevelopment and commercial activity currently underway two blocks to the north in the EYA development. While there are some success stories (consider the presence of , Arrow Bicycles and Under the Coconut Tree), many of the buildings in the vicinity of Gallatin Street and Route 1 are in need of significant renovations to be palatable to business tenants, according to Jim Chandler, director of Economic and Community Development for the city of Hyattsville.
"With many of those buildings, you have buildings that need some investment in the facade and the interior," said Chandler. "The parking needs to be addressed also. We're hoping some of the things we have been doing are improving the parking situation there."
Chandler also noted that many of the blighted properties along Hyattsville's Route 1 corridor are prime candidates for redevelopment. Any redevelopment activity would almost certainly have to widen the sidewalks, by code, according to Chandler. That would help to create a more cohesive pathway to draw pedestrians down Route 1 and into local businesses.
Paulson said that he was excited to be a part of the revitalization of Hyattsville, and he prized his location across the street from Franklin's dining rooms. He believes that the redevelopment of Hyattsville's Route 1 corridor will continue to reshape the area for the better.
"I wish we could be around to watch it play out, but we don't have that luxury," said Hoffman. "But it's fun to have been a part of it."
The store will be closed until Thursday, Jan. 10 when it will begin its liquidation sale.